Many people have been impressed with the way Sunderland have been playing this season. Currently lying in 7th position, 3 points off the European positions, their defensive organisation and attacking creativity has been lauded from all quarters, with a rather embarrassing 5-1 defeat to local rivals Newcastle being one of the only blemishes in an otherwise impressive start to the campaign for the Wearsiders.
But has this season only served to highlight that Sunderland have, in fact, been underachieving given the level of investment in the club?
Since 1997, when Sunderland moved from Roker Park to the now 49,000 seater Stadium of Light, there have been serious levels of investment in the club, which up until 2007 yo-yo’d in and out of the top flight.
When the Niall Quinn lead Drumaville Consortium took over at the Stadium of Light in 2006 after the clubs 3rd relegation in a decade, they brought an element of stability to the club, overseeing Sunderland’s promotion back to the Premier League at the first attempt in 2007. However, since returning to the top flight, the best Sunderland have managed is a 13th place finish with 44 points, and that was last season.
In May 2009 American businessman Ellis Short purchased a majority share in Sunderland and became sole owner, with Niall Quinn remaining as Chairman, and for now it seems this fresh investment, combined with the astute management of Steve Bruce and some scintillating football on the pitch, has done the trick for the Black Cats.
Having already accumulated 23 points, Sunderland are on course to record their highest Premier League finish since both the1999-2000 and 2000-2001 seasons, when they finished 7th, with 58 and 57 points respectively. But unlike those seasons, Sunderland need to make sure that their current form is not another false dawn.
Through varying investments in their squad in recent years, Sunderland have risen through the football ladder to become an established Premier League side, and if this season’s crop of players can continue to play the way they have been, the Black Cats may well add to their sole European appearance in the 1973-74 European Cup Winners’ Cup.